Interview with Sharon Gordon and Carlyle McKetty of The Coalition to Preserve Reggae Music (CPR)

This week we interview Sharon Gordon and Carlyle McKetty of The Coalition to Preserve Reggae Music (CPR).  The Coalition to Preserve Reggae Music (CPR) is a charitable organization, established in 2005 to bring reggae lovers together to work to preserve the art form and its traditional message of healing and unity.  Sharon and Carlyle are also the organizers of the annual Reggae Culture Salute which not only an event but a campaign to increase understanding of the development and significance of reggae music. Here is our conversation Sharon and Carlyle.


How did the Coalition to Preserve Reggae Music, Inc (CPR) get started?

“It was the 75th anniversary of the coronation of HIM Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia and we saw nothing being done in commemoration of this significant milestone, in particular and in general, to honor the unique relationship between, reggae, rasta, Selassie and Jamaica. Understanding the significant and profound contribution of Reggae music to world development, we set out to spread the good news of reggae music and preserve the genre.”



A part of your mission statement say “to raise the bar in the creation, development, promotion and presentation of reggae music”. What are some of the things your organization has done to do this?
In addition to staging Reggae Culture Salute, CPR has shown leadership by example in 2007 with the development and staging of  the Reggae Cabaret a series of after-work networking events at the upscale Manhattan Center which paired veteran artists with emerging artist in an up close and personal early show.


CPR is also the convener of the Community Conversation Series, a series of monthly forums addressing critical issues facing the industry in engaging the community in playing a role in raising the bar in reggae music. Most recently, CPR launched CPRLive, an internet based broadcast platform offering 24/7 music and talk programming.


What would you say has been the major accomplishments of the organization so far?
Clearly, consistency in staging and producing Reggae Culture Salute over the past seven years, becoming the most successful event of its kind in that period of time is an accomplishment of which we are very proud. In addition, CPR has managed to show steady growth and expansion over this same period, as evidenced by the three year history of conducting the Community Conversation Series and two years of broadcasting.


Sharon, you are the host for the radio show Reggae Calling and Carlyle you host Real talk. How do these shows tie in with the Coalition to Preserve Reggae Music, Inc (CPR)?
In the Spring of 2010 we were invited to produce and host these programs on  introducing CPR to the arena of broadcasting. Every Saturday, Reggae Calling presents the best in reggae music with reasoning, interviews and the popular Female Focus. It’s an unpredictable but enjoyable journey. On Thursdays, Real Talk presents a no holds barred talk show reinforced by music which explores diverse human development issues that relate to and impact the creation, development, promotion and presentation of reggae music.


These two programs became the flagship programs of CPRLive. All programs presented on CPRLive are intended to advance social development and serve the mission of CPR. CPRLive now offers The Evenings Suite, a series of live programming which also include of Social Living on Tuesdays, Peppa Pot on Wednesdays and My Generation, youth programming produced and presented by the Ifetayo Youth Ensemble on Fridays. The establishment of these programs is only the first phase of a multiphase plan to make CPRLive a leading broadcast organ.



What type of music and discussions take place on the program?
CPRLive boasts a dynamic mix of roots reggae, lover’s rock, old school dancehall and dub. All the music on CPRLive is programmed by Sharon . The discussions offer exciting examination and analysis of reggae music and world affairs, with a particular focus on Jamaica and the Caribbean.



You guys are pioneers in reggae music industry doing research. Can you tell us one statistic about reggae that typically raises eyebrows?
“Today’s youth in Iran are big Bob Marley fans, huge!”


Your organization seems to host monthly free workshops on reggae music and related genre. One of the most interesting event you hosted was a conversation with Kool Herc the Jamaican who is heralded as one of the founders of rap. Tell us about the relation between reggae and hip hop?
It was the innovation of Kool Herc, overlaying the toasting technique of delivery derived from “old school dancehall” to the rhythms of rhythm and blues that created what was then known as rap and has since evolved into Hip Hop. Hence the relationship is that the old school form of reggae is the progenitor of Hip Hop.


Tell us about your upcoming Reggae Culture Salute event in New York ? How did it get started and how many years have you held this event?
Now in its 7th year Reggae Culture Salute honors the unique relationship between reggae, rasta, Selassie and Jamaica . In addition to showcasing the best in roots reggae music, the multi media, family friendly event encompasses nyahbinghi drumming, a movie, the Pinnacle Award and a tribute to Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia. RCS has secured Congressional honors for reggae pioneers like The Mighty Diamonds, Big Youth and Ernie Smith and each year, The Pinnacle Award for Excellence, CPR’s highest honor is bestowed on a reggae pioneer who has contributed to the development of the genre.


Who are the artists your team will be honoring this year?
Big Youth will receive the 2011 Pinnacle Award for his more than forty years in the industry as a pioneer singjay and Rastafarian who has always shared a message of love and unity.


Dubtonic Kru will receive CPR’s first ever Simba (Young Lion) Award for their forward leaning roots reggae ensemble which captured the Global Battle of the Bands award in Malaysia earlier this year.


Is there a theme to each year’s Reggae Culture Salute?
Yes. Last year’s theme was “Salute to the Foundation” and this year, we salute the future of roots reggae music.


Where do you see reggae 10 years from now?
We see reggae firmly established as a world music, widely known for its characteristic of speaking truth to power with Jamaica continuing to provide the most authentic expression of the rhythm of reggae music.


Can you each tell me who are your favorite reggae artist? 

Carlyle: Bob Marley

Sharon: I have two favorites, Bob Marley and Peter Tosh.


Who are your favorite ska artists? 

Carlyle: The Skatalites

Sharon: The Skatalites


Who are your favorite rock steady artist? 

Carlyle: The Paragons

Sharon: Alton Ellis


Your favorite dancehall artist? 

Carlyle: Big Youth and URoy

Sharon: General Echo


Thanks for the interview? Any closing words?

Carlyle: Long live Reggae music.

Sharon: Jamaica gave the world a few gifts in the 20th century, Rastafari and reggae music. In addition, when we look at the influence of Marcus Mosiah Garvey on rastafari and on reggae music, we understand why we must honor his work and that of pioneers like Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Burning Spear, Big Youth, URoy and so many others who took it global. I am motivated by their sacrifice. Long live sweet reggae music.